St Lawrence church, Folke, outside

 St Lawrence church, Folke, inside



Although in the settlement of Folke this church also serves the larger hamlets of Alweston, North Wootton and Haydon as well as Bishops Down. Folke itself, although giving its name to a parish of 2120 acres, contains only a few houses and the church.

The church sits in its churchyard adjacent to open fields, beside the old manor house in a conservation area and, at Grade I, is one of several highly graded buildings in the parish. On approaching the church down a “no through” lane, a Causeway, built to stop ladies‟ dresses getting dirty and wet, can be seen on the left hand side. In 1583 the Rev W Hemerford left £3 for this to be constructed, as well as money for the poor. It has been partially restored and there are plans to complete it.

In the 12th century there is mention of a chapel at Folke which was probably on the site of the present parish church of St Lawrence. Apart from the tower the present building dates from a rebuilding of 1628, which is a rare date for English parish churches. Its size and magnificence is evidence of the great economic wealth of the area which was based upon the wool trade.

The building is therefore of significance for this alone but its importance is enhanced by the survival of its 17th-century fittings and furnishings. The key items are the complete set of 17th century pews, pulpit and the very elaborate late-17th-century chancel screen but there is also the contemporary communion table and font. There was an extensive restoration in 1875 but inside it appears more Jacobean than Perpendicular in style. There is a three-bay arcaded nave with a

one-bay western extension, and a separately gabled chancel which is separated by a single step from the nave and divided into choir and sanctuary by another step. There are north and south nave aisles with crenellated parapets, a western tower also with a crenellated parapet and a south porch which now acts as a vestry.

Then in 1875 a restoration was undertaken by William Farrall, under the patronage of the Digby family of Sherborne. The arcades between the nave and aisles were taken down and rebuilt, the roofs were renewed, the windows reglazed, and a new ringing floor added to the tower. Inside, a gallery at the west end of the nave was removed and the floor was repaved. Fortunately most of the original 17th Century features were preserved. The nave and chancel have a barrel-vaulted roof and the nave has a complete set of very fine 17th-century benches, while the chancel has a rather less impressive set of choir stalls. A magnificent three-bay late-seventeenth-century wooden screen with fluted Ionic pilasters and a large scrolled centrepiece separates the chancel and nave. The communion table, pulpit and font also date from the 17th century.